Sunday, January 27, 2013

Pizza con Carciofi

My trip to Specialty Produce this week took me into the Farmers' Market Room and I found some gorgeous baby artichokes and wasn't quite sure what to do with them, until I decided they were destined for a pizza that would be a starter for a meal with friends on Saturday night. If you aren't able to get fresh artichokes, you can use frozen artichoke hearts---the canned artichoke hearts will not hold up against the high heat in the oven needed to cook the pizza dough.  This is definitely worth the effort; our friends took the leftovers home, with Dr. C. looking longingly after them!

White Pizza with Artichokes

Makes one 14-inch pizza

 For the Artichokes

2 cups water
4 lemons
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 bay leaves
12 baby artichokes

  1. Put the water into a medium saucepan. 
  2. Cut the lemons in half, and squeeze the lemons into the water, and add the lemons to the water with the garlic cloves, peppercorns, salt and bay leaves.  
  3. Cut off the tough bottom leaves on the artichokes, quarter the artichokes and drop into the saucepan.  
  4. Bring the water to a boil, and simmer the artichokes, until they are tender. The sharp tip of a paring knife inserted into the base of the artichokes should go in easily.  Drain the artichokes, and set aside. 
Assembling the Pizza

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 pound ball of pizza dough (see below for a recipe) 
3 garlic cloves, minced
grated zest of 1 lemon (about 2 teaspoons)
 artichoke hearts (see above, or One 16-ounce package frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted)
salt and pepper
1/3 cup white wine
3 ounces Tallegio  or Italina Fontina cheese, or other triple cream cheese, thinly sliced
4 ounces Asiago cheese, shredded

  1. Coat a sheet pan with extra virgin olive oil, and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Toss or roll out the dough, and press into the pan.  Set aside while preparing the artichokes.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and saute the garlic and lemon zest for 30 to 40 seconds until they are fragrant.  Add the artichoke hearts, and saute for 3 to 4 minutes.   Add the wine, and simmer until the liquid is absorbed. Set aside.
  3. Distribute the Tallegio or Fontina cheese over the pizza dough.  Top with the artichoke heart mixture, and sprinkle with the Asiago cheese.  
  4. Bake for 10 minutes, turn the pan, and bake another 5 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and the under-crust is golden brown.  
  5. Remove from the oven, allow to rest for 5 minutes, before cutting with a pizza cutter and serving hot or at room temperature. 

Cook's Note:  If you would like to make this without cheese, prepare the artichokes, and set aside.  Prepare caramelized onions (see below) and spread the onions on the pizza crust, top with the artichoke hearts, and bake as directed.
Caramelized Onions 
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large sweet yellow onions, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  1. Heat the oil over medium high heat, and saute the remaining ingredients, stirring frequently until the onions become golden brown.  
  2. The caramelized onions can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 1 month. 

For the Pizza Dough

Makes two 14-inch pizzas (make one and freeze the other)
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 cups 00 Flour 
3/4 cup  lukewarm water
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  1. Stir together all the ingredients, turn out onto a floured board, knead for 5 minutes, divide the dough in half, cover with lightly greased plastic wrap, and let rest and relax for 15 minutes before tossing.  

OO Flour  refers to how finely ground the flour is and how much of the bran and germ have been removed. Double zero is the most highly refined and is talcum-powder soft. All-Purpose flour can be substituted, but the OO produces an amazing pizza and pasta. You can find OO flour at Italian markets, and specialty grocers. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Pineapple Upside Down French Toast

Sundays around Chez Phillips are pretty casual affairs; church, lots of sports watching and casual meals.  This morning I decided it was time for something fun for breakfast and I needed to use up some pineapple from Specialty Produce  and challah that I'd bought at Bread and Cie.

When I wrote my book Perfect Party Food I devised many delicious variations on French Toasts that involved a layer of fruit in a brown sugar syrup on the bottom and custard soaked bread on the top; the baked French toast was then baked, and turned out. The molten fruit and syrup on the top drips into the French toast giving it a delicious flavor.
This is a great way to get rid of leftover fruit; think bananas, apples, pears, pineapple, berries, peaches, plums---this can either be breakfast food or dessert depending on your preference.  We had this with a Denver omelet frittata.

Pineapple Upside Down French Toast
 Serves 6 to 8

For the Bread 

6 cups torn egg bread (challah, or try the Hawaiian sweet egg bread)
4 large eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream (or whole milk)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla paste

  1. Put the bread into a large mixing bowl.  
  2. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, cinnamon and vanilla.  
  3. Pour the mixture over the bread, and stir to soak the bread.  Set aside while preparing the fruit. 
  4. Do-Ahead:  The bread can be soaked overnight in the refrigerator and then spread on the fruit.  

For the Fruit

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons dark rum (optional but amazing!)
2 to 3 cups cut up fruit (peeled, cored and thinly sliced or pineapple cut into chunks)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and coat the inside of a 9-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.  
  2. In a small skillet, melt the butter, add the brown sugar, and stir until the sugar is melted.  
  3. Remove from the heat and add the rum, stirring to combine.  Pour the mixing into the baking dish, and top with the fruit. 
  4. Spread the bread mixture over the fruit and place on a baking sheet to catch any drips.  
  5. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, until the filling is set.  
  6. Using a dish that is 2-inches larger than the baking dish, place the dish on top of the baking dish, and flip the French toast.  (If you don't want to do this, it's not a problem, just serve, spooning the juices and fruit over the French toast)  
  7. Do-Ahead:  If you would like to freeze this, bake it for 25 to 30 minutes--the center will still be a little jiggly, but will register 150 degrees on an instant read meat thermometer.  Cool completely, wrap airtight and freeze for up to 1 month.  Defrost in the refrigerator, bring to room temperature and bake covered @ 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes to heat through. 
Fresh pineapple is coming in right now, pick one up, they are like honey!  But if you still have apples, or pears hanging around, this will work well for them, too.  Other add-ins---think nuts, raisins, other flavorings---almond is great for peaches and plums.
Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Amaretto Cheesecake Bars

I've been testing a lot of recipes this week, and Friday I made some Amaretto cheesecake bars that were super simple, and really good.  I've adapted the recipe from one I had torn out of  a magazine, and now cant figure out what magazine it was....I wanted to give credit where credit is due, but unfortunately, this torn piece of magazine doesn't give me much to go on---what I will say is that the recipe is one I'll be making again, and probably subbing in other liqueurs to add different flavors. 

Amaretto Cheesecake Bars
Makes about 20

For the Crust

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

  1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and coat the inside of a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.  
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour and sugar, and drizzle in the butter, stirring until the dough begins to come together.  
  3. Press evenly into the prepared pan, and bake for 10 minutes. While the crust is baking, prepare the filling.   

For the Filling

Two 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1/4 cup Amaretto di Sarrono
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup sliced almonds

  1. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the cream cheese, sugar and flour until smooth.  
  2. Blend in the eggs, one at t time, beating well after each addition.  Add the amaretto and almond extract, beating until smooth.  
  3. Spread the filling over the warm crust, and sprinkle with the sliced almonds.  
  4. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until the filling is set.  
  5. Remove from the oven, and using a bench scraper, cut the cheesecake bars while they are hot.  
  6. Cool completely and refrigerate for 2 hours, or overnight.  Serve the squares at room temperature.  These squares freeze beautifully for about 2 months in an airtight container.  

Variations:  Sub in Limoncello and lemon oil for the Amaretto and almond extract, or Grand Marnier and orange oil. 

Cook's Note: Why cut the bars when they are hot?  If you wait till they are cooled, you will pull up the hardened cheesecake batter, and lose some of it.  Cutting them when they are hot ensures that they will be uniform, without losing any of that delicious filling.  A bench scraper is a great way to cut them---this tool is one I wouldn't be without in my kitchen. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Cooking in the Key of B

Happy New Year to you all!  Today I'm cooking up a storm, with a gorgeous Boeuf Bourguignon in the slow cooker, and simmering Bacon jam on the stove top in a new Swiss Diamond pan that was a gift from a friend, and to get myself into more trouble I've made the dough for 'Bama Cheese Straws.

Before Christmas I had enough time to bake, and make some interesting meals, but today, with the temperatures lower than normal for San Diego, a rich wine soaked beef stew with Boursin mashed potatoes, and crisp green beans dressed with extra virgin olive oil just sounded right.
The Bacon jam is a result of lusting after the right recipe, and then tossing caution to the wind, and developing my own.  I've had friends who've made Bacon jam but I never had enough bacon in the house to make a batch---caution, it's addictive and doesn't make a whole heck of a lot!  After a trip to Siesels' meats last week, I bought a pound of Berkshire bacon and it was worth it!
Several months ago I had a grilled Brie and Granny Smith apple sandwich with bacon jam and it was sublime.  I think you could use this jam on anything!

Bacon Jam
Makes about 1 cup

One pound good quality bacon (I'd advise not using any flavored bacon, like Maple, or even apple wood smoked) cut into 1/2 inch pieces 
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup strong brewed coffee
3 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar *see note
3 tablespoons Sherry vinegar ** see note
1 bay leaf
freshly ground black pepper

In a large non-stick skillet, cook the bacon over medium high heat, until it is crisp. 

 Transfer the contents of the skillet to a colander set over a bowl to catch the bacon drippings.  
Return the drained bacon to the skillet (there will still be a bit of drippings clinging to the bacon)
Add the onion and garlic, an saute for 3 to 4 minutes, until the onion is translucent.
Add the sugar, maple syrup, coffee, vinegars, bay leaf and pepper.  
Cover and simmer for 1 hour over medium low heat (the liquid in the pan should bubble slowly), until the mixture is thickened.   
 Taste for seasoning during the cooking time and add additional sugar, or vinegar to achieve a good balance. 
Cool completely, remove the bay leaf  and process in the food processor until desired consistency.  The jam keeps refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. 

Note on Balsamic vinegar:  I used B.R. Cohn 25 year old Balsamic vinegar---use a good quality vinegar here---most supermarket Balsamic vinegars are red wine vinegar, caramel color and sugar, boiled down--these don't achieve that lovely balance that a more expensive vinegar will.

Note on Sherry vinegar:  Sherry vinegar adds zest, and flavor here, if you don't have it, use apple cider vinegar.      
Enjoy the rest of your week and Happy New Year!